The Nissan Playstation GT academy contest went live on Monday, October 15, 2012, from 00:00 GMT/02:00 SAST. The virtual-to-reality racing competition is open to anyone in the Middle East and South Africa with a Playstation 3 console, registered on the Playstation network and an internet connection. The competition is based around the popular Gran Turismo game. The winner walks away with a chance to be part of an intensive driver development training programme which has turned previous winners into professional drivers.PROFESSIONAL DRIVERThe eight-step online qualification format is specially developed by Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi, poses gamers and motorsport fans a variety of challenges that reflect the wide range of driving skills required to master the fine art of becoming a professional racing driver. Entrants have eight weeks to complete these driving contests, which include handling Nissan rear-wheel-drive performance cars and mastering cornering techniques at high speeds, through to setting the fastest possible lap times in wet and challenging conditions.The GT Academy qualification is open for anyone, whether interested in competing or just challenging friends.Yamauchi, also President of Polyphony Digital, said: “This time around, we've designed a GT Academy qualification format as part of the Gran Turismo series on an unprecedented scale and aimed towards a wide variety of players. This title may be free, but it is a truly independent piece of work and marks a place for itself along our path from GT5 to GT6.“I felt that the only way to really do it right for GT Academy was to create a format where not only veteran Gran Turismo players, but also players who have never tried a driving simulator before, can experience the depth of race driving and the fun and excitement of time trials.”'NEW CHALLENGES'Darren Cox, general manager Nissan in Europe, said: “It is great to see a range of Nissan cars added to the online qualification process, as well as new challenges that relate closely to GT Academy’s goal of turning Playstation gamers into real racers. Yamauchi-san’s knowledge and passion for racing shines through in the various stages of this exciting new Gran Turismo download.”Anyone from a participating country aged 21 or over holding a full driving licence, and eligible under the terms and conditions of the competition, can enter GT Academy. The online stage of GT Academy started from 00:00 GMT (02:00 SAST) October 15, 2012 and runs until the early hours of Monday, December 10, 2012, closing at 23:59 GMT and at 02:00 SAST on December 11, 2012. The competition will consist of eight driving rounds released in four groups of two rounds every fortnight.Rounds 1 and 2:Opening October 15 (Mon) 00:00 GMT/02:00 SAST Close December 10 (Mon) 23:59 GMT/01:59 SASTRounds 3 and 4:OpeningOctober 29 (Mon) 00:00 GMT/02:00 SASTCloseDecember 10 (Mon) 23:59 GMT/01:59 SASTRounds 5 and 6:OpeningNovember 12 (Mon) 00:00 GMT/02:00 SASTCloseDecember 10 (Mon) 23:59 GMT/01:59 SASTRounds 7 and 8 (ROUND 8 IS FINAL/QUALIFICATION EVENT):OpeningNovember 26 (Mon) 00:00 GMT/02:00 SASTCloseDecember 10 (Mon) 23:59 GMT/01:59 SASTRounds are to be released sequentially, although once released players can re-attempt the rounds at any time, repeating as often as they wish. At the close of the final qualifying stage – round 8, the fastest sixteen online gamers from each territory will qualify for the regional finals stage. A maximum of nine further places will be up for grabs via a series of “Live Event” GT5 competitions.ONLY ONE WINNEROf these 25 Regional finalists, only eight people will go through to the GT Academy “race camp” at Silverstone, England – a boot camp for aspiring racing drivers. The race camp will end with the selection of one GT Academy champion who will be put through the advanced driver development programme in preparation for competing in the Silverstone International 24 Hour Race in a full race-spec Nissan 370Z GT4.Demonstrating the success of GT Academy as a route into top-level motor sport, the previous winners - Lucas Ordoñez, Jordan Tresson, Jann Mardenborough and Bryan Heitkotter - are all competing in full race programmes for Nissan during 2012. According to Nissan, details of how and where to enter GT Academy can be found on various platforms including, Facebook, Gran Turismo's website and a dedicated GT Academy SA page.